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Jet Causes Controversy in Swaziland

August 3, 2002 GMT

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MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) _ A government plan to buy Swaziland’s king a $250 million luxury jet drew protests Friday in this South African nation, which has been plagued by severe food shortages.

Parliament called for the resignation of Swaziland’s prime minister, who arranged to buy the plane for King Mswati III at a price five times the impoverished nation’s national deficit.

``The action of prime minister is tantamount to white collar crime,″ said lawmaker Marwick Khumalo.

But Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini said the jet was urgently needed to help the king attract foreign investment and international aid from abroad.

``Why an aircraft for the king? The money spent ... for the king’s jet should have been used for buying food for the starving Swazis,″ said Pat Dlamini, a civil servant in the capital, Mbabane.

Swaziland is a mountainous nation of 1 million wedged between South Africa and Mozambique. Officials estimate tens of thousands are facing food shortages. In addition, the small country is also battling a high HIV rate.

Criticism of the king _ Africa’s last absolute monarch _ is normally unheard of in Swaziland’s royalist-dominated parliament.